When a kid learns how to play music, he develops “ability” to play music. He knows the basics. He is able to play the music according to notes. He can play the songs exactly as the notes tell him to play.
Then a few more years of practice and he develops ability to play new songs without notes. The notes that he has been playing for all these years come naturally to him now. He can listen to a new song and immediately play it as well without any help of written notes.
A few more years and he is now an expert. He is able to invent and experiment with new combination of notes. He can listen to a new song and add his own improvisations/variations to the basic notes. He understands music so well that he is now able to compose new songs from scratch. He develops a sound judgment, is aware of what audience wants and can offer minute insight into each and every note that he plays. That is “expertise”.
With years of experience that we gain, it is very critical to gain expertise.
To be able to think beyond tactics of work. To be able to relate our work with a larger context. To be able to foresee things before they happen (pro-activity). To be able to offer deep insights and sound judgment. To be able to build/deliver quality consistently. To raise the bar. To be able to do more in less time. To innovate and experiment. To bring about a positive change in people/organization through our work. To do things in a way that they become hard to measure.
That is real expertise – exactly the one which makes us valuable.
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P.S.: Expertise doesn’t always go up with experience. Another realization is that more knowledge does not always mean more expertise. Ability to execute that knowledge does. That is because most explicit knowledge is widely and freely available now. But to execute that knowledge well requires one to have implicit skills mentioned above.(You might also like reading my older post: Explicit v/s Tacit – Content v/s Process)
Have a GREAT start into the week!